Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Bull Becomes Bresaola

It took almost three days to cut the bull (some will argue that I never stopped) that came back from the slaughterhouse last week. About 300 pounds of it was ground into hamburger, the bones have thus far yielded about 20 gallons of stock (there are more than half to be processed), I reserved a loin for dry aging, the tenderloins are steak and the rest is on the path to becoming cured and air-dried beef in the form of bresaola.

In the following slideshow you will see some of the meat being cleaned and cured. It will stay in the cure for about two weeks after which the herbs and spices will be scrubbed off prior to being tied and hung in the aging room. I suspect that it will take at least 4 weeks of aging before it is dry enough to be sold.

I think that this meat is going to yield the best air-dried beef imaginable. Just take a look at the color and you will know I'm right. That deep-red color equals deep beefy flavor that is not possible in an animal whose liberty and movement is restricted as is normally the case in cattle raised for beef. This is meat from a bull that has lived for more than two years in a large pasture and has spent its days chasing cows and well, you know, getting lots of exercise.

The color and texture is more typical of venison and the flavor is intensely beefy.Because there is almost no marbling to lubricate the meat, the only way to eat this stuff is raw or very rare. Cooking even the tenderloins above rare turns the meat hard and dry.

You know, seeing this meat for the first time last week "brought me back" to my first restaurant job. My chef, Rene Chardin, was a great cook who, like all great cooks, believed in doing almost everything from scratch. He used to smoke salmon in a converted early 20th century cabinet style electric clothes dryer that had been left behind by the original owner of the mansion (a daughter of Alexander Graham Bell) in which he built his restaurant. He raised pheasant and trout, was a great charcutier and a true believer in only using ingredients that were densely packed with flavor. For steak tartar he only used top round from a bull that had not been confined and finished on grain. In other words, a bull just like the one I butchered last week.


maurarose said...

So there's no cut similar to a chuck roast - something for a stew (for want of a better term)? Would not removing the fat and connective tissue help with that?

Bob said...

Any plans to sous vide any of this trove of beef?

I might have to make an expedition this week.

mdmnm said...

That meat does look a lot like elk, given the color and structure. I look forward to reading more about your experience with it.

Scotty said...

That looks wonderful! The meat is so lean that rancidity from the fat should be almost non-existent. Not to request trade secrets, but what did you use in the cure?

Maurarose, I'd bet the chuck, as well as other things not mentioned (flank, brisket,neck, etc.) ended up in the burger meat - unless Bob and Trent took some to slap on the barbie (hanger or skirt maybe).

I need to drive back there now!

redredsteve said...

At risk of exposing my own ignorance, I have a question: Isn't marbling good when it comes to beef? Doesn't it also provide flavor and isn't it the reason prime is prime? Your post makes it sound like marbling is bad, so I was just a bit confused by that...

Bob del Grosso said...

There was plenty of great stew meat. I just did not write about that. In fact, that animal produced amazing stew meat from chuck to shin.

Sous vide is cool, but I'm too busy and too parsimonious to wade into that water now. I'll leave sous vide to the money cooks while I make do.


The cure was made from about what you'd expect it to be made from.


No! I've nothing against marbling. Marbling is good in beef that you mean to cook. I was only trying to highlight the beauty of beef from an animal that lived in a near wild state.

Jon in Albany, NY said...

The color of the meat is very similar to the cows we butchered last month. Our cows got grained daily so there was plenty of fat. Too much fat. The meat was well marbled but a lot of fat was trimmed away. The new cows are getting less grain.

Quick little bites of beef while you are butchering are fantastic. It's just so fresh and good and delicious.

Carrie Oliver said...

Bob, great post and I'm so curious to taste bull meat myself - we're so trained to think that marbling = quality, taste, and tenderness that as far as I can tell, most bulls get turned into grind, at best.

A couple of questions: 1) What was the breed/crossbreed? 2) What was the finishing diet? 3) Did you age the carcass at all (other than the loin set aside for dry-aging).

Also, you call the meat beefy but I've found that one person's beefy is another person's gamy. I'd love to give you one of my tasting guides and hear how you'd classify the steaks using this. Let me know if you're game to give it a try!

ps Really looking forward to the photos.

Bob del Grosso said...


It's a pity to grind a bull when so much of it can be cured and dried. I will allow that the flavor might be too much for palates conditioned to eat grain finished steers, but I loved it.

1) What was the breed/crossbreed?

The bull was a purebred Ayshire.

2) What was the finishing diet?
Grass and alfalfa. In other words, he was not finished.

3) Did you age the carcass at all (other than the loin set aside for dry-aging).

The carcass hung for a week before we butchered it.

Now about the flavor. At raw and rare the flavor was sweet with a strong aroma of beef. At medium to well done the taste became metallic but the beef aroma was unchanged -this is what I think of as gamy.

I'd love to see your tasting guide. Please email me at my gmail address and I'll give you my contact info.

Larbo said...

Didn't see your site until now, but while you were butchering your bull there in PA, I was butchering half of a 3-year-old, grass-fed Dexter bull here in Illinois.

If anything, the meat on my bull was even darker and more purplish than what your pictures show.

Because well exercised muscles will be tougher, I let it hang three weeks at the slaughterhouse to soften up. By then the butcher there was freaked and basically refused to handle it, so we broke it down ourselves. The rib section and loin are still aging in my fridge–it will be six weeks this Wednesday since the bull was slaughtered.

The cuts I've eaten so far (filet, chuck) have a deep, rich flavor, but, as you say, not so much extra beefy as gamy. I'll be curious to see if the dry-aged rib and loin cuts are beefier. Also making a bresaola from the eye of round!